Being a first year college student in 2020 was… interesting. Most of our orientations and “Welcome Week” events were done online, leading to a new level of the typical clueless freshman. We moved into our freshman dorms, way overpacked, living with strangers we only previously spoke to via Snapchat.
Despite the obstacles, awkwardness, and occasional COVID scare, we somehow survived our freshman year of college. And with the ongoing list of restrictions and abnormalities we encountered along the way, I’d like to think we’re experts at adapting to the unexpected challenges of college life.
Here’s my top 5 pieces of advice I wish someone had told me before my freshman year of college.
- Don’t waste time (or space!) overpacking your clothes.
Packing for college for the first time can be overwhelming. You may be thinking “What if I need a formal fit? What if I need a costume? How many pairs of shoes do I bring?”
My best advice for packing-related anxiety is to stick with the basics. Unless you’re a total fashionista, college women are always on the go and rarely spend a lot of time picking out an outfit in the morning. If you’re going to school somewhere it’s going to be cold for 75% of your time there, it’s very likely you will simply be throwing on the first comfy outfit you find before rushing out the door for class. So you’re going to want to keep it casual. Long sleeve shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts combined with leggings or jeans will become your go to, so feel free to load up your suitcase on these.
As for seasonal wear or going out clothes, bring a few fun faves you can mix and match. Bring one or two business casual outfits for interviews and presentations. Bring items you’re guaranteed to wear, just don’t overdo it. Your new roommate will thank me when you’re clearly very organized, and only brought what you know you’ll need.
- When trying to meet new people, simply say “Yes” to every invite.
The first few weeks of freshman year, everyone will be trying to make friends with their new classmates. And unfortunately, no matter how many Facebook groups you join, not all of the people you meet online will become your best pals at school. In-person connection is much better for forging friendships. So, any time someone asks you if you would like to grab dinner together or meet in the library for a study sesh, always say yes. This strategy is a solid way to relieve some of the angst of “But how will I make new friends?”
You probably won’t become instant best friends with every person you meet. That’s TOTALLY okay! It doesn’t hurt to just sit and have lunch in the dining hall with someone, even if you don’t have much in common. It’s through these random conversations and meet ups that you’ll eventually find people you really click with.
Take it from someone who knows! Last October, my roommate and I agreed to get dinner with a couple of random people who lived in our building. We were all a little shy at first, but the conversation kept flowing. Fast forward to a month later, we were inseparable. If not for saying yes to dinner with a couple of strangers, I would never have met my best friends.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up in your classes.
A lot of professors will be giving you a class participation grade. Consistently raising your hand to answer questions and making your voice heard will not only help you focus, but you may find you retain the course material better.
Also, most college professors are not there to scare you. Sure, there will be some instructors who are purely there to lecture and leave. But many professors actually want to talk to students and help them succeed. Many professors will also be more willing to help you out if they can see you’re putting your best foot forward.
- Don’t wait to get involved on campus.
In high school, it’s common for students to join millions of clubs and extracurricular activities for the sole purpose of thinking it might beef up their college resume. While its good to join activities which may be beneficial to your future career, there’s a lot less pressure in college to get involved simply because it might look good on paper.
Join clubs that actually interest and excite you! This is a great way to meet new people with similar interests. You’ve probably heard that before, but its totally true. Also, by committing yourself to a limited amount of extracurricular activities, you’ll be able to focus on your classes without getting too overwhelmed.
- Don’t let your year hold you back.
Yes, this may be your first year on campus. So what? You were accepted to this school. You deserve to be here. It’s easy to be intimidated by upperclassmen, but don’t let the fact that you’re a freshman hold you back from living your best life. You’re a student here just like everyone else. So be bold and make your voice heard.
Freshman year is going to be a little awkward no matter what. There is no right or wrong way to feel going into your first year of college. Sure, you may encounter a few bumps along the way, but you’ll survive. Now, take a deep breath, remember these tips, and move forward with confidence. You got this.